The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
Next year, at the United Nations climate change conference in Paris, representatives of all the world’s countries will be hoping to reach a new deal to cut greenhouse gases and prevent the planet overheating dangerously. So far, there are no signs that their leaders have the political will to do so.
To try to speed up the process, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has invited world leaders to UN headquarters in New York on 23 September for a grandly-named Climate Summit 2014.
Carbon emissions from the electricity grid rose after the repeal of the carbon price, with analysts predicting further increases as coal-fired power takes a greater share of Australia’s energy mix.
In the year to August 2014, emissions were 1m tonnes higher when compared with the year to June 2014. This is equivalent to an increase of 0.8% in emissions.
The data from the National Electricity Market, which covers about 80% of Australia’s population, shows that the leap in emissions is the largest two-month increase in eight years.
The coal mining ambitions of Swedish state energy giant Vattenfall have been thrown into doubt after the leaders of all eight major parties promised to ban its planned new operations in Germany.
During an election debate on Wednesday, leaders were asked if they would “ban Vattenfall from expanding coal power in Germany?” All eight responded affirmatively by holding up green cards.
The company plans to enlarge its lignite mines and potentially build new coal power stations in the east German region of Lusatia. Europe’s growing lignite industry has been called a “massive threat” to the continent’s decarbonisation.
Water scarcity is not a problem just for the developing world. In California, legislators are currently proposing a $7.5 billion emergency water plan to their voters; and U.S. federal officials last year warned residents of Arizona and Nevada that they could face cuts in Colorado River water deliveries in 2016. Irrigation techniques, industrial and residential habits combined with climate change lie at the root of the problem. But despite what appears to be an insurmountable problem, according to researchers from McGill and Utrecht University it is possible to turn the situation around and significantly reduce water scarcity in just over 35 years.
In a new paper published in Nature Geoscience, the researchers outline strategies in six key areas that they believe can be combined in different ways in different parts of the world in order to effectively reduce water stress. (Water stress occurs in an area where more than 40 percent of the available water from rivers is unavailable because it is already being used — a situation that currently affects about a third of the global population, and may affect as many as half the people in the world by the end of the century if the current pattern of water use continues).
A new study of satellite data from the last 19 years reveals that fresh water from melting glaciers has caused the sea-level around the coast of Antarctica to rise by 2cm more than the global average of 6cm. Researchers at the University of Southampton detected the rapid rise in sea-level by studying satellite scans of a region that spans more than a million square kilometres.
The melting of the Antarctic ice sheet and the thinning of floating ice shelves has contributed an excess of around 350 gigatonnes of freshwater to the surrounding ocean. This has led to a reduction in the salinity of the surrounding oceans that has been corroborated by ship-based studies of the water.
In one year, India’s ozone pollution damaged millions of tons of the country’s major crops, causing losses of more than a billion dollars and destroying enough food to feed tens of millions of people living below the poverty line. These are findings of a new study that looked at the agricultural effects in 2005 of high concentrations of ground-level ozone, a plant-damaging pollutant formed by emissions from vehicles, cooking stoves and other sources. Able to acquire accurate crop production data for 2005, the study’s authors chose it as a year representative of the effects of ozone damage over the first decade of the 21st century.
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